Responsiveness is Undervalued

by Nina Post

It seems like most companies spend all their time trying to find people who have the right combination of education, prior work experience, etc. They may mention something about looking for people who possess "strong attention to detail" and a "self-driven sense of urgency," but the attribute that's most often left out is responsiveness.

Responsiveness should be considered as valuable as everything else, but it's well under the radar. The nature of most work requires communication with both internal and outside parties, and keeping that communication going can make the difference between a project that's on-time and meets expectations, versus one that's plagued with delays and functional issues.

When it comes to getting complex work done and working effectively as part of a team, responsiveness is so valuable that it's arguably a better predictor of job effectiveness than nearly anything else.

How can we be more responsive? Here are a few tactics that anyone can implement right away:

  • If you're waiting to get the answer from someone else, or you don't know the answer, just say so. It's that simple (but incredibly rare).
  • If someone asks you to do something and you can't get to it right away, it's still helpful to tell the person who sent the request, "Got it - I'll let you know when I can work on this." Take a second to acknowledge that you received the email so the sender isn't left in the position of wondering if you did.
  • Don't run your inbox on a FIFO basis. Have enough flexibility and awareness that you don't blindly go through all of your emails in order. Say that someone sends you an email, you reply to them a few hours later, and then they reply to you right after that.

    Do you wait until you've made your way through all your other emails before looking at their latest reply, or do you pick up the thread and finish the conversation right then and there? The second approach is the more responsive one, and also has the benefit of reducing the time you spend switching from one task to another.

What My Neighbor's Pine Tree Can Teach Us About Growth

by Nina Post

Our neighbor has a pine tree directly in front of his house that sticks several feet into the adjacent road. The branches are high enough that cars don't hit it, but every delivery or construction vehicle that comes through smacks into it.

Yet every spring, the tree presents a triumphant array of several dozen middle fingers to the world and its oppressors as it grows another two feet.

This tree is literally hit by a truck every week, sometimes every day, and keeps growing. It doesn't let that stop it. No, it's not massive. It's a modest-sized tree. But it's indomitable.

Our neighbor's pine tree is an inspirational metaphor for the small company experience. The tree has the right model. Does it feel like the same thing is happening to you? You can survive, and you can grow. Keep taking small actions.   

What Frigate Birds Can Teach Us About Work and Endurance

by Nina Post

Frigate birds are known for their endurance. They can fly for weeks, even months, without stopping.

According to Henri Weimerskirch, an ornithologist who spent years tracking a group of them, frigate birds can fly for such long periods because they take advantage of favorable winds and strong convection, and rely on thermals and wind to fly at very low energy costs.

They soar inside cumulus clouds, using their strong updraft (even though it's freezing).

If what you're doing requires feats of endurance, are there ways you could make it easier for yourself? Have enough reserves so you can run things on the back-burner for a while if you need to. Keep your operating costs low and be as efficient as you can until you have the resources to scale.

You can't do this without taking care of yourself. Getting enough sleep and exercise will make you capable of sustaining the frigate-like endurance you need.

Movie Recommendations For a Long Weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend, and aside from paying our respects to those who lost their lives in the service of our country, we could probably fit in a couple of movies. These aren't thematic for the holiday and most aren't on Netflix streaming; forgive me.

When you need to get creatively inspired by real people:

Abstract: The Art of Design - particularly the architecture and graphic design episodes [Netflix streaming]

Lambert & Stamp

Beauty is Embarrassing

When you want to get in a better mood and watch something British:

Sing Street [Netflix streaming]

Love & Friendship

The Trip [Netflix streaming]

The IT Crowd Manual [Netflix streaming]

Sexy Beast

Withnail & I

When you want to get in a better mood (and don't even care if the thing you watch is British or not!):

The Station Agent

Soul Kitchen

What We Do in the Shadows


Good Bye Lenin!

Chunking Express

The Dinner Game

Galaxy Quest

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

World of Tomorrow [Netflix streaming]

When you're in a knock-hats-off kind of mood and are fine with staying that way:

With a Friend Like Harry

Blow Out

The Guest

One Hour Photo

Roger Dodger

Nightcrawler[Netflix streaming]

Spotlight [Netflix streaming]

The Invitation [Netflix streaming]

The Big Short [Netflix streaming]

When you want to watch something about crime but also want to be in a pretty good mood:

The Matador

You Kill Me

Sexy Beast

Lucky Number Slevin [Netflix streaming]

I hope you find something you like, British or not, and that you find some to add to your list for another weekend! 🎥

Why the Kitchen Sink Has No Place in Your Job Postings

by Nina Post

When you start hiring for your small company, it's tempting to assume the new staff members will constantly have to wear different hats. After all, this is what the founders do early on.

I think this mindset is why you see a lot of job postings that include the following:

Writing email and web copy
Writing blog posts
Writing white papers
Setting up conversion tracking and sales funnels
Planning live events
Social media
Managing customer relationships
Creating webinars
Project management
Creating videos
Managing PPC advertising

The problem with a posting like this

A job posting like this tells me that (a) this company is disorganized and unfocused, and doesn't even know what its goals are, and (b) doesn't have a content strategy and doesn't know it needs one.

The responsibilities this job posting is asking for cover a large number of full-time jobs. It's not effective to do it this way, and it's not strategic.

The problem is that it's especially hard to scale the jack-of-all-trades skill set as your company grows, and there's only so much time. Whoever wrote this job posting is asking for someone who's barely passable in a lot of areas, and who won't be able to excel in any of them.

On the job seeker side, some people try to cover every possible area of marketing in their CV. They're aggressively generalist, covering B2B and B2C, every stage in the inbound methodology and the buyer's journey, and a lot more on top of that. I don't even know where they get this mentality, because big companies—where most people have worked—always err toward the more specific, limited job description.

I saw a CV like this that included brand building as one of their 50 skills, which is particularly funny, considering the person's positioning is antithetical to good branding.

A good brand is narrow and focused. A good brand specializes.

Someone who presents herself as a generalist in a way that's similar to this job posting is casting their net as wide as possible, and they won't be a good hire.

Can they stop time?

A posting like this never mentions how much of each responsibility the person needs to handle. Whoever takes this job can't enter into a bubble where time stops, and can't go through a wormhole where they get this stuff done in the past.

It's more like the founders heard they should be doing these things, and without even thinking about it, they decided to put every task pertaining to it into a single posting. "Oh yeah, white papers, add that. Webinars too. And we need someone to manage all of our projects and workflows. But they've gotta know CSS and handle our PR. And they should be an awesome writer, too. And, like, a conversion expert!"

Here's the thing. One person will be filling this role.

One person.

Here are just a few examples of specializations that this posting includes:

Someone who acts as your project manager really shouldn't be doing anything but managing your projects.

If you need a lot of HTML and CSS work done on an ongoing basis, even if that person is a good writer, they are only one person. It's hilarious to think they'll also be writing all of the blog and email copy, creating sales funnels and landing pages, managing projects, planning live events... (see how it's starting to sound ridiculous now?).

And someone who knows conversion typically focuses entirely on conversion, because it's difficult and they really have to know their stuff. Even if they're good at some other things, they're only one person. You can find someone who is also decent at conversion, and may even be better than a specialist, but to load them up with totally unrelated things like PR, live events, blog posts, white papers, CSS, SEO, etc, is lunacy.

Managing customer relationships? That's everyone's job, even if you have roles for that. It should be inherent to your company's culture to delight customers, regardless of department. But to put that on one person who's also expected to do everything else?

I could go on, but the point is that it just can't hold. You won't get good quality. And this job posting isn't an extreme or atypical example.

If you really need someone to handle a ton of different things, consider doing the following:

  • Think about your strategy and goals as a company, and see if you can reduce the number of tasks you're asking someone to do. Think about your priorities, and where you want to focus your time and resources, which are limited.
  • The posting should also give an applicant some sense of what the reporting structure is. Ask yourself, if our company grows, what would this person be focusing on? If our company grows, who would this person be reporting to?
  • Don't try to hire someone to do all those things forever. Write up the role with 2-3 things you expect them to be doing longer term, and say, in the short run, we expect this role to fill in some other areas, but in the long run, it will focus on a short list of things.
  • It's fine to say, we're a young company and we need some help with (for instance) Google Analytics and social and some other stuff. But then you can mention, six months out we expect that you'd be building your team and hiring others to take over those functions.
  • Mention how much of each responsibility that person is expected to handle.

Saying that someone's going to have 44 responsibilities indefinitely is totally inefficient. You should hire smart, flexible people who understand that in a startup or a small growth company, they may have to help out with tasks that are tangential to their main responsibilities.

But if you try to overload people with a hundred, often disparate responsibilities on an ongoing basis, you'll never be able to move the needle in the areas that really matter.

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